Stangled for not wearing Hijab

BRAMPTON, Ontario (AP) -- Aqsa Parvez would leave home each morning wearing track pants and a Muslim head scarf. Once the 16-year-old got to school, she would remove the scarf and change into close-fitting jeans.

But, her friends said, her parents got wind of what she was doing. Parvez soon began showing up at school with bruises on her arms.

It was a struggle that may have led to Parvez' death this week at the hands of her father, who was denied bail Wednesday after being charged with strangling her.

The killing has ignited a debate in Canada about the conflict between first- and second-generation immigrants who struggle to maintain traditional Muslim values and their children's desire to fit into Western culture. Canada has about 750,000 Muslims.

Parvez, whose family is of Pakistani origin, was rushed to the hospital in critical condition Monday after her father made an emergency call in which he claimed to have killed her, police said. She later died. Watch as her friends describe her »

Police spokesman Wayne Patterson said authorities were working to determine the motive and refused to confirm it was over the hijab, the traditional Muslim head scarf. A lawyer for the father said there was "more to the story than just cultural issues."

But friends said Parvez was planning to leave home in Mississauga, Ontario, because of tensions with her family over her decision to stop wearing her head scarf at high school. They said she often had bruises and that she predicted days before her death that her father would "kill her."

"Her dad would want her to be about Muslim this, Muslim that, but she was more about living her life to the fullest. She just wanted to show her parents that you could be religious, but also be who you wanted to be," said Alex Prasad, a friend and fellow student at Parvez's suburban Toronto school, Applewood Heights Secondary.

According to her friends, Parvez wore the hijab when she started school at Applewood Heights last year. But after getting teased about the head scarf, she stopped wearing it a few months ago.

"Her parents would follow her to school or her sisters would and then go home and tell her parents what she was wearing," said Joel Brown, 17. "They'd come to the back doors, just to spy up on her. Aqsa was always afraid of them, especially her brother who she'd sometimes see walking towards her, and she'd have to scramble to put her hijab back on."






















































































































Brown said he was getting worried because Parvez would show up at school with bruises on her arms, possible signs of abuse at home that other friends had noticed as well.

The tension with her family had become too much for Parvez, who left home on several occasions. In the days before her death, she had been staying with a friend, Krista Garbutt. She was returning home last weekend to collect some belongings to move out for good, said Brown.

Brown said Parvez told him she was afraid of going home Friday because her father would "kill her." He said he thought she was speaking figuratively.

"She was scared," Brown said. "But students often talk like that so I thought I'd see her the next day. I didn't expect her never to return to school."

An autopsy revealed that the cause of death was "neck compression," or strangulation, police said Wednesday.

Muhammed Parvez, a frail 57-year-old cab driver, appeared unemotional during his brief appearance at a Brampton court. He was ordered not to communicate with his son Waqas, 26, who was charged with obstructing police in connection with the girl's death.

A publication ban was imposed on the court proceedings.

But outside the courtroom, the father's other son, Sean Muhammed Parvez, told reporters he was not sure what exactly led to his sister's death.

"We don't know so far. We are upset," he said, adding that his mother was "sick" because of what happened.

Muhammed Parvez's lawyer, Joseph Ciraco, said the family is distraught.

"It's clearly a tragedy," he said. "You've got a sister that's gone and a father and brother in jail."

"We've heard what's being said in the newspapers and her friends about the cultural problems at home. From my brief discussions with the family, there's more to this story than just the cultural issues, which could play a part," Ciraco said.

Selma Djukic, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations, called it a case of domestic abuse.

"This is a tragedy. This another woman that has succumbed to domestic violence and we need to look at what kind of services are available to families who are immigrants and who are trying to make it in the Canadian framework," Djukic said.

Shahina Siddiqui, president of the Islamic Social Services Association, also called it a domestic violence issue.

"To say it was about her not wearing the hijab, I think that's an oversimplification. All we've heard is from her peers saying that," Siddiqui said. "Many of us who have teenagers or had teenagers know this is a very difficult time. Their hormones and emotions are raging and they are trying to assert their independence."



by Alamgir Hussain

21 Dec, 2007

The murder of 16-year-old Canadian teen, Aqsa Parvez, by her Pakistani immigrant father for her refusal to wear a burka or hijab has shocked and saddened the nation. As people from all walks of life are mourning her tragic death, Muslims — particularly their religious leaders — have joined the chorus of denials that “Islam has nothing to with the death of Aqsa.”
Here is a Muslim riddle. When one criticizes the practice of Muslim women wearing the burka or hijab, Muslims quickly respond that their religious symbol or choice is being attacked, but when girls like Aqsa die for refusing to accept the same religious symbol, Muslims quickly respond by saying their religion has nothing do with the death.
It is indeed a fact that wearing the burka (not the more liberal hijab) is a religious duty for Muslim women commanded by Allah. The Quran [24:31] commands Muslim women to “draw their veils over their bosoms” so as not to expose their physical assets to unrelated people. Allah says [Quran 33:59]: “O Prophet! Tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers [Muslims] to draw their cloaks close round them (when they go abroad).”

No Muslim will deny that Allah’s commands in the Quran are non-negotiable and binding on all Muslims. When someone dies for refusing to comply with those binding Islamic obligations, it is ridiculous to say the Islamic religion has nothing to do with that death.

When I was growing up as a Muslim, my religious teachers at my school and madrasa used to tell us that a righteous Muslim parent must ask his or her children to follow their religious duties at the age of eight and pressure them at the age of ten. If they continue to refuse, beat them at the age of twelve. In many Muslim countries not all parents apply this protocol rigorously, but it remains a widely accepted guide. Some parents do follow it closely in order to bring their disobedient children onto the righteous path. As a result, injuries and even deaths occur, like Aqsa's. These injuries and deaths can in no way be separated from the Islamic religion.

Whether it is for the refusal to wear the burka/hijab, or to follow other religious obligations, deaths such as Asqa’s occur in Islamic countries on a regular basis. The UK’s Sunday Times reported on December 16th that 48 women have been killed in Basra, Iraq in the last six months for “un-Islamic behavior.” The actual number of these incidents is likely to be much higher since many of them go unreported.

Red graffiti in Basra warns women, "Your makeup and your decision to forgo the headscarf will bring you death." In Pakistan, an estimated 1,500 women die from honor killings every year. People in those countries hardly make a fuss about it. That’s a price those women have to pay for violating the Islamic codes. It is well accepted in Muslim societies, and people pay little attention to such incidents. In most cases, they go unreported.

Aqsa’s death is not a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence in Western countries, either. In the UK, there have been at least 25 confirmed honor killings in the Muslim community in the past decade, but the real number is likely to be much higher. On 1 November 2006, Riaz Ahmed, a British immigrant from Pakistan, burned his whole family alive (his wife, 39, and their four daughters, 3-16 years of age) for their Western lifestyle and his wife’s refusal to arrange marriages for their daughters.

In Germany, according to a February 2005 report, there were 45 recorded cases of Muslim honor killings during the past eight years, while there were at least five such cases in just four previous months in Berlin alone.

Imam Syed Soharwardy, of the Calgary Islamic Centre, suggesting that violence and Islam do not mix, went on a hunger strike to protest Aqsa’s death. Imam Sheik Alaa El-Sayyed, of the Islamic Society of North America in Aqsa’s home city, Mississauga, said in a news conference, “Islam condemns violence and teaches adherents not to force their beliefs upon others.”

Imam El-Sayyed’s claim regarding compulsion in Islam, which is far too common among Muslims, is historically unsound from the time of Prophet Muhammad to the present day. Prophet Muhammad’s biographer Ibn Ishaq records that when the Prophet attacked Mecca in 630 CE, he gave his father-in-law and opponent, the leader of Mecca, the following choice [Life of Muhammad, Oxford, Karachi, p547-8]: “Isn’t it time that you should recognize there is no God but Allah? …Submit and testify that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the apostle of God before you lose your head.” Abu Sufyan complied.

According to a document on the Oman Government website, (removed now), the Prophet’s letter to the Christian king of Oman in 628 read: “…Embrace Islam, and you shall be safe. I am God’s messenger to all humanity, here to alert all those alive that nonbelievers [non-Muslims] are condemned. If you submit to Islam, you will remain kings, but if you abstain, your rule will be removed and my horses will enter your arena to prove my prophecy.” Terrified, the Oman king replied accepting his directives.

These are no instances of sweet-talking or a persuasive way for converting nonbelievers, but of enforcing Islam on them at the pain of death. Indeed, with a Quranic decree [2:190-3; 9:5], the Prophet had annihilated Paganism (Polytheism, Idolatry) from the Arabian Peninsula by giving the people a choice between conversion to Islam and death. These are well-documented historical facts, recorded by Muslim chroniclers.

It is a fact that murders among Muslims around the world for noncompliance with the Islamic way of life are common, and go mostly unreported. According to a 2000 UN estimate, “…around 5,000 girls and women in at least 14 countries, among them Pakistan, Jordan and Turkey, were killed yearly because their families felt they brought dishonor on them.” These are far too common incidences of unjustified cruelty, which make very few news headlines.

Muslims go about their business happily as these brutal murders happen on a daily basis. It is only when the Western press makes a fuss about it, pointing particularly to their religion, that Muslims all of a sudden break their slumber and join the chorus of denials, or accusations of unjustified attack on their religion.

What is needed is for the Muslim community to try its best to ensure that another innocent life, full of possibilities, like that of Aqsa Parvez, does not meet the same fate. Denials, putting up a show of a hunger strike, or accusations of attacks on their religion will not help, but will only perpetuate the tragedy.

In spite of these denials, hunger strikes, and accusations, Muslims know well what is written in their scriptures and their duty to enforce them. What is needed is for the Muslim community to look honestly into where the problem truly lies. They must initiate an open debate in their community about what is enforceable in their scripture and creed, and what is not. It is going to be a long time before such a debate will stop innocents like Aqsa from dying, but without it, Aqsas will continue to die in their thousands yearly, as occurs today around the world, without an end in sight.